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Top 10 youngsters to watch out for at the World Cup

sundayworld.com counts down the best young players on display at this winter’s tournament in the desert.

England's Jude Bellingham applauds the fans at the end of the UEFA Nations League match at Wembley Stadium, London. Picture date: Monday September 26, 2022.© PA

Grace FlatmanSunday World

The World Cup is set to provide the ultimate ship window for the game’s rising stars and here, Grace Flatman looks through the ten youngsters to watch in Qatar.

Pablo Martín Páez Gavira (Gavi)

Age: 18

Born: 5th August 2004

Nationality: Spanish

Current Club: FC Barcelona

Position: Midfielder

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema in action against Barcelona's Gavi© REUTERS

Young talent was of prime importance in the rebuilding of cash strapped Barcelona, and a shining light in head coach Xavi’s cast list is 18-year-old Gavi.

A central midfielder, he was signed from Real Betis at the age of 11 and was promoted directly from the u-16 team to the u-19 team. The young Spaniard has been compared by respected Barcelona watchers to the classic duo of Xavi himself and Andrés Iniesta. In September, Xavi said he regarded Gavi as the best player in the game, because of his intensity, fight, passing and high pressing.

Gavi has been prominent in the Barcelona midfield since 2021 and received his full international call up from Spanish manager Luis Enrique in the UEFA Nations League semi-final win against Italy in October 2021. In June this year, he became the youngest player ever to score a goal for Spain in the Nations League away fixture against the Czech Republic.

The youngster was rewarded for these achievements with the Kopa Trophy at the 2022 Ballon d’Or awards, naming him as the best player in the world at u-21 level.

Jamal Musiala

Age: 19

Born: 26th February 2003

Nationality: Germany

Current Club: Bayern Munich

Position: Midfielder/Winger

When Bayern Munich bought Leroy Sane from Manchester City, it seemed that the German would be the first-choice winger, but his place in the spotlight has almost been snatched by the 19-year-old.

With 9 goals and 5 assists in his last 13 appearances for the Bavarian giants, Musiala is heading for Qatar in threatening form. His collection of club honours at the age of 19 is breath-taking as he has won the UEFA Champions League, Germany Bundesliga title (2), three DFL-Super Cups and one UEFA Super Cup.

He doesn’t turn 20 years of age until next February, but Musiala has already been awarded 17 full caps for Germany, and yet he could easily be in Gareth Southgate’s England attack. The son of a Nigerian father and German mother, Musiala represented England at youth international level, and was a standout member of the Chelsea academy at Cobham. However, aged 16 he was lured back to Germany to join Bayern Munich and within a year had made his Bundesliga debut becoming the youngest ever Bayern player at the age of 17 years, 100 days.

Musiala fancies his chances of being involved for Germany at the World Cup: “I believe in myself! But it doesn’t matter whether I’m in the starting XI or a sub, I want to be ready and help the team. I want to help us get far,” Musiala said.

Jude Bellingham

Age: 19

Born: 29th June 2003

Nationality: English

Current Club: Borussia Dortmund

Position: Midfielder

England's manager Gareth Southgate (L) gives advice to England's midfielder Jude Bellingham (R) before bringing him on to make his debut during the international friendly football match between England and Republic of Ireland© POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The summer of 2023 will probably be highlighted by a massive bidding war for the midfield services of Jude Bellingham. Every major English Premier League club want his midfield attributes in their colours, along with current Champions League holders Real Madrid.

Bellingham’s maturity, skill and physicality has played a key role in his rise to prominence, and at a young age he has already amassed 17 international caps.

He is a driving force of a midfield player, who is blessed with enormous stamina for getting up and down the pitch, and his strength is illustrated by the fact he can boost an 89% tackle success.

Pedro González López (Pedri)

Age: 19

Born: 25th November 2022

Nationality: Spanish

Current Club: FC Barcelona

Position: Midfielder

Spanish midfielder Pedri, 19, is a player for the big occasion and in 2020 he featured in the Spanish squad for the Summer Olympics that almost won the gold medal, and was the only Spaniard named in the UEFA team of the tournament in Euro 2020.

Throughout the Euros, he played all but one minute in Spain’s six matches, allowing him to be classified as one of the most focused and hardworking young midfielders of his age.

He is likely to provide the midfield hub of the Spanish team in the upcoming World Cup. Barcelona head coach Xavi described Pedri as an extraordinary player, saying: “He’s a player that excites me and one that can make a difference.”

All eyes will be on the then 20-year-old to see if he can live up to his billing expectations.

Ryan Gravenberch

Age: 20

Born: 24th August 2000

Nationality: Netherlands

Current Club: Bayern Munich

Position: Midfielder

Ryan Gravenberch of the Netherlands. Photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos© Getty Images

This 20-year-old from Amsterdam appeared destined for great things when he became the youngest ever Ajax player to play in Holland’s Eredivisie at the age of 16 years age and 130 days, surpassing the record set by national icon Clarence Seedorf. So, Bayern Munich felt very contented when they signed the midfielder from Ajax on a 5-year contact, paying the Dutch club a reported €18m with an additional €5m in variables.

Standing 6 feet 3 inches tall, his physical presence is clearly a great attribute and looking back to his Ajax days, he received the first ever Abdelhak Nouri Trofee, awarded to the best talent in the Amsterdam club’s revered academy.

Like so many great Dutch players before him, Gravenberch is off Surinamese descent, and a potential star of the national team in Qatar.

Ansu Fati

Age: 20

Born: 31st October 2022

Nationality: Spanish

Current Club: FC Barcelona

Position: Forward

Widely acknowledged to be the heir apparent to Barcelona’s all-time greatest player Lionel Messi, this highly gifted youngster was awarded the Catalan club’s prized number 10 shirt in the wake of the great little Argentines departure for Paris Saint-Germain.

Fati was originally eligible to represent Guinea-Bissau at international level but did not represent the African nation of his birth at any level and Spain quickly snapped him up. He is a versatile forward who can play in any attacking position and can use either foot to great effect.

The young Spaniard possesses outstanding dribbling skills but is also lightening quick and for somebody that only stands 5 feet 10 inches tall, he is also very good in the air.

Tor-Kristen Karlsen of ESPN described Fati as a: “Generational talent, blessed with speed, acceleration, ambidexterity, low centre of gravity and technical skills, allied to great intelligence.”

Eduardo Camavinga

Age: 20

Born: 10th November 2022

Nationality: French

Current Club: Real Madrid CF

Position: Midfielder

Born in a refugee camp in Angola to Congolese parents, Camavinga moved to France at the age of two. In 2013, the family house in Fourges, was burnt down destroying most of the family’s property, leaving the young Frenchman with a motivation to make a fortune from football.

Like so many of the other highly promised youngsters heading for Qatar, Camavinga is a central midfield player.

The player himself has revealed his desire to play in Qatar 2022: “Playing at the 2022 World Cup is a goal for me. I have to play well here, because my performance with Madrid is what will help me get back into the French team” he said.

William Saliba

Age: 21

Born: 24th March 2001

Nationality: French

Current Club: Arsenal

Position: Defender

Arsenal's William Saliba celebrates his side's second goal of the game, scored by team-mate Gabriel (not pictured) during the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium, London. Picture date: Saturday August 27, 2022.© PA

Until just a few weeks ago, the much-praised Arsenal youngster expected no more than a seat on the French substitutes bench in Qatar. Then, Raphael Varane was injured playing for Manchester United and Saliba, who has excelled in top of the table Arsenal’s Premier League campaign so far since his return from loan at Marseilles, is the perfect replacement.

The 6-foot 4 centre back will be paramount in French coach Didier Deschamps thinking as the team make their way to Arabian Gulf.

Aurélien Djani Tchouaméni

Age: 22

Born: 27th January 2000

Nationality: French

Current Club: Real Madrid CF

Position: Midfielder

With Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante absent through injury in Qatar, France need some young midfield muscle and another Real Madrid luminary, 22-year old Tchouaméni seems set to fill a defensive midfield birth.

Signed from AS Monaco for a reported €80m, that could easily rise to €100m with additional fees, the youngster of Cameroonian descent made his international debut just over a year ago and scored his first French goal in the friendly against the Ivory Coast in March. Tchouaméni has also been influential to his club, Real Madrid this season due to the departure of long-standing midfield pivot Casemiro.

Any team is based on having a strong core though the centre of the pitch, and with Saliba in defence along with Tchouaméni in midfield and presumably Mbappé in attack, France is blessed.

Vinícius Júnior

Age: 22 .

Born: 12th July 2000

Nationality: Brazilian

Current Club: Real Madrid CF

Position: Attacking Midfielder (Left)/Forward

Vinicus Junior© Getty Images

Two cherished awards currently in the young Brazilians possession are the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Champions League Young Player of the Season. According to the respected website Transfermarkt, the 22-year-olds current value stands at €120m, and that is certain to rise with a good performance at the World Cup.

Vini Jr. prefers to attack down the left and adds much needed pace to his Spanish club. At the time of writing, his numbers read 10 goals and 3 assists in the last 19 games played for his club across all competitions.

While the young Brazilian hasn’t yet had strike of magic for his country, his current form and skill suggests he could be a big hit in Qatar.

of magic for his country, his current form and skill suggests he could be a big hit in Qatar.


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